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LOCAL ENTERTAINMENT

Ashland library to host author Sharon Mehdi

&

On a buffety, blustery early summer day, when the news was bad and the sky turned yellow, a strange thing happened in the town where I live.&

So begins the moving and enchanting story by Ashland author, Sharon Mehdi, about two grandmothers who do something so simple that at first no one takes them seriously, but soon, their simple act has the power to transform the world.

The grandmothers walk to the park one day and just stand there &

they don&

t talk, they don&

t eat, and they don&

t move. Everyone&

s curious about what they&

re doing, but it&

s a small girl who knowingly declares &

they&

re saving the world.&

The gathering of two soon becomes dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, then tens of millions &

women, everywhere, standing together in public squares &

and then, one day &

there are no reports of war &

anywhere in the world.

Hopeful, moving, and energizing, &

The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering&

is a story for all who feel they may not be able to make a difference in a world where the news seems to get worse and worse. The message of this story is that, together, we can make a difference, and that sometimes change starts with the smallest of actions. It is a story for anyone who knows peace is possible.

Written as a gift to her newborn granddaughter, &

The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering&

surpassed all of its author&

s expectations from the very beginning. Sharing the story with friends, Mehdi discovered that each one found it so powerful and moving that they, in turn, wanted to share it &

with the world. So, she self-published the book in August 2004. Then, one friend brought hundreds of copies to United Nations&

conferences and to the Peace and Reconciliation meetings in South Africa. Another friend found cover art; another helped pay for printing and another helped get her a radio interview that aired throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California. When Mehdi and her interviewer, Jeff Golden, read the story together on Jefferson Public Radio, people from all over the region called in, expressing how the story affected them.

Then, another extraordinary thing happened &

the phone at local bookseller Bloomsbury Books started ringing off the hook with people wanting to buy the book. The store soon sold out all copies. When Bloomsbury&

s brought this to the attention of Viking, it acquired the book for publication in April 2005. Shortly afterwards, Sharon Mehdi was on an 18-city book tour!

Author Sharon Mehdi is a writer, teacher, healer, mother and grandmother. She has lived and worked all over the world, including 12 years in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait. In the early &

60s, she became the first director of courses for the American Cultural Center in Cairo, Egypt. In June of 1967, on the fifth day of the six-day war between Egypt and Israel, she and a group of other Americans were evacuated in the middle of the night from Beirut to Cyprus on the deck of an oil tanker. In the early &

70s, she and her Iraqi husband fled Baghdad with their two babies, crossing the desert to Syria and Lebanon in a 20-year-old taxi whose doors were held shut with wire coat hangers. Mehdi was working in Kuwait during the 1973 Arab oil-embargo war.

She eventually returned to the U.S. to further her children&

s education, but her adventures did not stop. In 1988, as a writer for a humanitarian project, she rode 5,000 miles in a school bus from Seattle to Guatemala. The bus and its cargo of medical supplies were a gift for an orphanage there. Six months later, she returned to the jungles of Guatemala to write the story of a 70-year-old optometrist from Chicago who provided eyeglasses for Mayan villagers. When the optometrist became ill, she and a photographer took over dispensing the eyewear. In 1998, Mehdi and a friend walked 500 miles from the Pyrenees in France, across Northern Spain to the ancient pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. Mehdi has spent a lot of the last 10 years in France, doing research for a book about scrolls buried in the crypt of a medieval cathedral. She moved to Ashland a little over a year ago to complete the book. Instead, she found herself writing &

The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering.&

The author will read her story aloud on Author Night, Jan. 11, at the Ashland Public Library. The program begins at 7 p.m. in the Gresham Room. For more information on the author or the book, visit www.grandmotherbook.com. For more information on this event, call the library at 774-6996. Author Night is sponsored by the Friends of the Ashland Library.

Wanted: Art friends

The Ashland Gallery Association is looking for Art Friends to help celebrate the visual arts and encourage the talents of local artists. A special sign-up insert will be included with this First Friday Art Walk map.

Friends of the AGA will receive Art Walk maps mailed to their homes, and invitations to special events, such as art shows and the Preview Gala Auction that opens the annual A Taste of Ashland weekend. Friends will also hear about volunteer opportunities, so they can help if they wish with AGA events.

The Ashland Gallery Association is a nonprofit organization that advances the creation and appreciation of fine art. Among our members are art galleries, other businesses who display art, and artists whose creations add to Ashland&

s reputation as a thriving art venue.

The Association hosts cultural events to bring art into the public eye. These include:

&

149; The First Friday art walks, held one evening each month with exhibits continuing throughout the month

&

149; An annual Student Art Exhibit, and

&

149; A Taste of Ashland, a festival for art, food, and wine appreciation, held each year in April.

In addition to monthly Art Walk maps, the Association publishes the free Ashland Gallery Guide. The group also offer information about the Ashland art scene in newspapers and on the Association website, www.atasteofashland.com.

&

145;Spotlight on Billie Holiday&

at Camelot

Camelot Theatre Company presents the first in its Second Stage Music Series for 2006: &

Spotlight on The Life and Music of Billie Holiday &

133; a Little Biography and a Lot of Music!&

starring Livia Genise. It will play Jan. 13 through 22, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

In 2002, Camelot&

s Artistic Managing Director Livia Genise conceived the idea of a Second Stage Music Series featuring the works of popular composers and singers: &

Spotlight On &

133; a Little Biography and a Lot of Music!&

Playing to mostly sold-out houses, Camelot has turned the spotlight on such famous artists as Cole Porter, Patsy Cline, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney. Later in 2006, Camelot will turn the spotlight on George and Ira Gershwin, Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters.

Born Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore on April 7, 1915, to teenage parents Clarence Holiday (jazz guitarist and banjo player) and Sadie Fagan, Billie had a rough life from the start. Raped at the age of 10, Billie later moved to New York with her mother. How she went from moonlighting as a prostitute to becoming the legendary singer &

Lady Day&

is the stuff of legends, due in part to her notorious autobiography, &

Lady Sings the Blues.&

Billie was introduced to Benny Goodman 1933 and made her debut at the Apollo Theater in 1935 with Duke Ellington. In 1937, she recorded several numbers with Count Basie&

s Orchestra and went on to tour with him and then, in 1938, with Artie Shaw. It was Billie&

s recording of &

Strange Fruit,&

banned by many radio outlets, that boosted her career. She had her next big hit with &

God Bless the Child,&

her own composition. In the mid-1940s, Billie&

s personal life took a downward turn as she became addicted to alcohol, marijuana and, later, opium. In 1947, arrested for possession of heroin and sentenced to eight months in prison, Billie was unable to get a cabaret card after her release, something she needed in order to perform in nightclubs. However, Billie continued to record and, in 1954, she toured Europe to great acclaim. She followed this in 1956 with &

Lady Sings the Blues.&

Billie collapsed in 1959 due to heart and liver disease and died on July 17. She was 44 years old. The 1972 movie of &

Lady Sings the Blues,&

starring Diana Ross, brought Billie Holiday more fame after death then she had ever had in life.

Featuring over 24 Billie Holiday standards including &

Lover Man,&

&

Willow Weep for Me,&

&

God Bless the Child&

and &

Sophisticated Lady,&

this performance will star Genise. A former Broadway actress, Genise starred in &

Spotlight&

s&

on Patsy Cline and Bonnie Raitt. Equity actor Scott Honeywell will provide the narration from a script by Emily Ehrlich Inget. They will be joined by Rogue Valley musicians Robin Lawson on piano, Bil Leonhart on guitar, McKern on bass, Mike Vannice on woodwinds and Steve Sutfin on drums.

&

Spotlight on The Life and Music of Billie Holiday ... a Little Biography and a Lot of Music!&

plays January 17, 18, 19, and 24, 25, 26. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Tickets are $13 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. Reserved seats are available for an additional $2 per ticket. Call 535-5250 ext. — for reservations. Tickets may be obtained at the Camelot Theatre Box Office, located at the corner of Talent Avenue and Main Street in Talent. Camelot Box Office hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from — to 5 p.m., or one hour before performances.